After signing the new new tax bill and listening to his pandering cabinet, culminating in Pence’s benediction, Trump probably thought he was having a good day.
Not after he sees this:
Hold on to your Twitter!
On Dec. 20, 2017, Bill Moyers retired and his website–BillMoyers.com–went into archive mode. But there’s one big exception: Until the Trump-Russia Timeline finds a suitable new home, Bill wants to keep it updated at BillMoyers.com.
Thanks to Bill’s remarkable supporting cast, the Timeline will retain its unique presentation. This week, we added “pop-up” bubbles: Hover over a bolded name in any entry and watch what happens.
At this critical point in the nation’s history, facts and clarity are democracy’s greatest friend and Trump’s fiercest foe. Someone in the Trump administration knows it because these lines appear in his December 18, 2017 National Security Strategy document:
“A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation.”
My earlier posts that connected dots in the Trump-Russia scandal will remain available at the BillMoyers.com archive site. New ones will appear here. Often, they will take the form of introductions to my weekly Trump-Russia Timeline updates.
Let’s start with this week. The latest Timeline theme is clear: As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation draws ever closer to the Oval Office, Trump’s Team–including a complicit GOP Congress–intensifies its frivolous assault on Mueller’s integrity.
It’s a prelude to perilous times.
Here’s a list of what we added with our Dec. 19 update:
- Sept. 1, 1987: Trump Ponders Presidential Bid
- Nov. 8-10, 2013: The Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow [revision of previous entry]
- July 22, 2015: Goldstone Invites Trump to Moscow
- April 19, 2016: As Trump Wins, Manafort Assumes Greater Control
- May 27, 2016: When Putin Arrives in Athens, Papadopoulos Is Already There
- June 20, 2016: Trump Fires Lewandowski
- Early December 2016: Russians Arrest Cybersecurity Expert [revision of previous entry]
- Jan. 6, 2017: Trump Receives Intelligence Briefing; Meets Comey for the First Time [revision of previous entry]
- Feb. 13, 2017: Flynn Resigns [revision of previous entry]
- Oct. 12, 2017: House Threatens to Subpoena Stone [revision of previous entry]
- Dec. 11-12, 2017: Trump’s Lawyers Demand New Special Counsel to Investigate Mueller
- Dec. 12-13, 2017: Trump Transition Team Discovers Mueller Has Its Emails; Complains to Congress
- Dec. 12, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Dec. 13, 2017: Rosenstein Defends Mueller’s Investigation
- Dec. 14, 2017: House Staffers to Interview Sater and Graff; Schiff Concerned About House GOP
- Dec. 14, 2017: Putin Praises Trump
- Dec. 14, 2017: House Democrats Want To Subpoena Cambridge Analytica and Parscale
- Dec. 15, 2017: Trump Blasts FBI; Doesn’t Rule Out Flynn Pardon
- Dec. 15, 2017: Kushner’s Legal Team Searches For Crisis Public Relations Firm
- Dec. 17, 2017: Trump Says He Doesn’t Intend To Fire Mueller
The Alabama Senate race dominated the news. But important things were happening in the Trump-Russia story. For fun — and context — see how the newest entries fit into the overall saga.
Here’s a list of what we added with our Dec. 12 update:
- June 2005: Manafort Pitches Himself to Russian Oligarch
- Nov. 10, 2008: Trump Sues Deutsche Bank, But Bank Keeps Lending To Him Anyway
- June 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer
- June 14, 2016: Goldstone Emails Emin Agalarov and Ike Kaveladz
- July 14, 2016: Trump Campaign Successfully Changes GOP Platform on Ukraine
- Nov. 5, 2016: Russian Social Media Exec Offers to Promote Trump
- Dec. 12, 2016: Former Trump Campaign Surrogate Discusses Sanctions With Russian Businessmen
- On or around Jan. 11, 2017: DeVos’ Brother Meets With Putin Associate
- Jan. 20, 2017: Flynn Says Trump Will ‘Rip Up’ Russian Sanctions
- Jan 26, 2017: DOJ Says Flynn Lied; McGahn Informs Trump
- February 2017: FBI Warns Hope Hicks About Russians
- April 9, 2017: McFarland Is Asked To Resign
- Sometime after May 31, 2017: Nunes and White House Contact Erik Prince
- July 8, 2017: Don Jr.’s June 9 Meeting Becomes Public
- Oct. 5, 2017: Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty
- Dec. 4, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Dec. 4, 2017: Trump’s Lawyer Says A President Cannot Be Guilty Of Obstruction Of Justice
- Dec. 4, 2017: Mueller Withdraws Support For Manafort’s Bail Agreement
- Dec. 5, 2017: Mueller Has Subpoenaed Deutsche Bank
- Dec. 7-8, 2017: Mueller Meets With Hope Hicks
The media controversy over who wrote President Trump’s Dec. 2, 2017 tweet shifted attention away from a key point about the tweet itself: It is a double-barreled lie that obscures the facts surrounding a more important story.
Here is the tweet at the center of the storm:
The Media Controversy
Here’s their argument: Trump tweeted that he “had to fire Gen. Flynn because [Flynn] lied” — but not just to Vice President Pence, as Trump and the White House had maintained since February. Trump’s tweet also says that he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI. That means that on Feb. 14, 2017 — the day after Flynn resigned — when Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to back off on the bureau’s investigation of Flynn, Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI about his late-December 2016 conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In that scenario, Trump’s request that Comey “let this go” is an attempt to obstruct justice.
Then on Saturday Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, claimed he authored the tweet. So, Trump defenders argue, because Trump didn’t write it, Trump didn’t incriminate himself. But that’s tenuous. Because Trump did not disavow or delete this “official statement by the president of the United States” — a definition that the Trump administration itself provided — the tweet became what lawyers call an “adoptive admission” that binds Trump. In other words, Dowd has created a nightmare for himself and his client.
But here’s the other thing: The tweet is riddled with lies.
The truth is that Trump didn’t fire Flynn for either of the reasons he gave in his tweet. If he had, Flynn would have left his top national security post weeks earlier. Again, John Dowd’s words put his client in a tough spot. Dowd said White House counsel Don McGahn had told Trump in late January that he believed Flynn had probably misled the FBI and lied to Pence about the substance of his calls with Kislyak. But Trump didn’t fire Flynn until The Washington Post broke the story on Feb. 13. The unavoidable inference is that Trump did not fire Flynn because he lied; he fired him because the media discovered the lie and reported it.
The More Important Story
The media focus on Trump’s tweet has obscured the key facts underlying Flynn’s guilty plea, and Trump has no incentive to help the public see those facts clearly.
- In late December 2016, Trump’s national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn — in consultation with a senior official of the Trump transition team later identified as K. T. McFarland — spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about newly imposed US sanctions for election interference. Flynn’s mission was to persuade Kislyak that the Trump administration would reward Putin for a restrained response, and he succeeded.
- After his phone call with Kislyak, Flynn “spoke with senior members of the presidential transition team about [his] conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding the US sanctions and Russia’s decision not to escalate.” We don’t know if Flynn’s conversations included Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but Pence was chairman of the transition team.
- On Jan. 24, 2017, four days after the inauguration, the FBI interviewed Flynn. He lied, adhering to the White House line that Pence had established: Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak “had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
- On Jan. 26, 2017, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to the vice president about his conversation with Kislyak and that US intelligence — and the Russians — considered him a blackmail risk.
- On Jan. 27, Trump invited FBI Director James Comey to dinner in the White House and asked for Comey’s “loyalty.”
- For more than two weeks, Flynn remained in the nation’s most sensitive national security post until The Washington Post broke the story about Yates’ warning to McGahn. Then Trump and the White House said that Flynn was fired because he had lied to Pence about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.
- On Feb. 14, 2017 — the day after Flynn’s resignation — Trump told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey took Trump’s request as a directive to terminate the Flynn investigation. Three months later, Trump fired Comey.
- Comey later testified, “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
Properly considered, Trump’s tweet should bring into clear view the enduring theme of the Trump-Russia investigation: When facing questions related to Russia, Team Trump answers with lies — sometimes layers and layers of them.
It was Flynn’s week, but we haven’t heard the last of him.
A personal prediction as to those higher in the food chain: Flynn has put Jared Kushner. Mike Pence, and Donald Trump (father and son) on the hot seat.
- May 19-22, 2016: Trump, Don Jr. and Torshin at the NRA [revision of previous entry]
- July 15, 2016: Flynn Denounces Turkey’s Erdoğan
- Nov. 12, 2016: Russian Claims Conspiracy Helped Trump Win
- Nov. 25, 2016: Trump Names McFarland Deputy National Security Adviser
- Dec. 22, 2016: Flynn Communicates With Kislyak About UN Resolution
- Dec. 28-29, 2016: Flynn Discusses New Sanctions With Kislyak
- Dec. 31, 2016:
Flynn Relays Kislyak Talks To Trump Team
- Early January 2017: Flynn Promotes Nuclear Power Plant Program for Mideast
- Feb. 15, 2017: Trump Says Flynn Has Been Treated Unfairly
- April 9, 2017: McFarland Asked To Resign
- Aug. 7, 2017: Trump Asks GOP Senators To End Trump-Russia Investigation [revision of previous entry]
- Aug. 9, 2017: Trump Blasts McConnell Over Russia Investigation [revision of previous entry]
- Sometime in November 2017: Mueller Quizzes Kushner About Flynn
- Nov. 25, 2017: Woolsey With Trump At Mar-A-Lago With Trump
- Nov. 26, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Nov. 27, 2017: Flynn’s Lawyer Meets With Mueller
- Nov. 28, 2017: House Democrats Want Barrack To Appear
- Nov. 28, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Nov. 29, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Dec. 1, 2017: Flynn Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements [revision of previous entry]
- Dec. 1, 2017: James Comey Tweets
- Dec. 2, 2017: Trump Tweets
- Dec. 3, 2017: Trump Tweets
If you think Mike Flynn has problems, they’re nothing compared to those even higher on the Trump food chain — Pence, Kushner, and Trump himself. Newly posted at Billmoyers.com
The Trump-Russia investigation has reached a historic and defining moment. Former national security advisor Michael Flynn was an early and enthusiastic Trump supporter who remained a constant presence in Trump’s inner circle from the summer of 2015 to his resignation on Feb. 13, 2017.
Flynn also generated controversy and, based on previously published reports, faced potential legal exposure far beyond the crime of making false statements, to which he has now pled guilty. Almost certainly, that means he has cut a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. In return for admitting that he made false statements to the FBI about his discussions with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and avoiding potential liability for other criminal wrongdoing, Flynn will likely provide evidence that incriminates others in Trump’s orbit. Who are the targets? The list is long, but top candidates include Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump.
For Trump’s presidency, it’s possible that the Russia story may have moved from what Winston Churchill called “the end of the beginning” to the beginning of the end.